There Are Five Legit Ways to Admit Alien Athletes; Here’s Another One

By David North on October 29, 2021

[Update 1/28/22: Amin Latouff was sentenced to 13 months in prison on January 26. This seems like an overly gentle penalty — it means he will spend about two weeks in jail for each illegal alien he caused to be admitted.]

It’s not Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance; in this scenario the ball player:

  • Travels from Cuba by smuggler’s boat to Haiti;
  • Uses phony documents created in Haiti to board a plane to Miami; and
  • Does some in-flight document-shedding on the way to Major League Baseball.

Organized sports in the U.S. has five different ways to bring in alien athletes of various kinds — no other industry, not even Silicon Valley, has more legit ways to manipulate the immigration law — but in case none of the five works, there’s another way for prominent Cuban baseball players to get to the U.S.

We will get to the five legal ways of importing professional athletes later, but the illegitimate double-play described above popped into the news the other day as, after only five years in court, one of the middlemen-smugglers copped a plea deal with the federal prosecutors.

He is Amin Latouff, one of the trio of crooks and a resident of Haiti. His two colleagues indicted with him have Spanish names, Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada. Both received multi-year jail sentences earlier.

Latouff and his cronies signed agreements with prominent Cuban baseball players to pay high fees (after they got into the major leagues), despite the fact that the athletes could not come directly from Cuba to the U.S. Sometimes they moved the players through Mexico, but Latouff’s speciality was different.

Once an athlete signed away a substantial portion of his future earnings, Latouff paid captains of small boats to make the 50-mile trip from the eastern tip of Cuba (near our base at Guantanamo) to the northwestern tip of Haiti. Once in Haiti, phony documents were created indicating that the player was a Haitian or a Dominican, and that he had a (forged) visa to come to the States.

After the plane took off, the player was told to shred his documents and tell the airport inspectors that he was, in fact, a Cuban fleeing from the Castro dictatorship. Since, in our then “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, he was a dry-foot, he could be admitted and go on to play professional baseball.

Latouff said that he had brought 25 athletes to the U.S. in this manner. He has not yet been sentenced.

There is nothing in the trial documents I read to suggest that any MLB team has been punished, nor can I see any indication that the players have been indicted; perhaps this has happened, but the government tends to go after the middlemen, not the aliens in these cases. For more on Latouff’s case, see PACER filing 16-CR-20091-WILLIAMS(s).

As to the five legal nonimmigrant visas available for alien athletes, the San Diego law firm Leible and Kirkwood touts a list for athletes of varying ability:

  1. O-1 for those with extraordinary ability;
  2. P-1 for those who are “internationally recognized”, including baseball players with MLB contracts;
  3. H-2B (the landscaper visa) for lesser professionals;
  4. B-1 (business visas) for those seeking prizes in tournaments, such as golfers; and
  5. B-2 for those in amateur team sports.

And if none of them works . . .